Interview with 'Frenzy Island' Author Richard Rock
Richard, for those reading this that haven't come across your book 'Frenzy Island' could you please explain what it's about?
Frenzy Island is the story of three shipwrecked refugees – two sisters and a baby – who come ashore on a mysterious east African island where incredible, secret experiments have been taking place. There are all sorts of crazy phenomena occurring there, like freakishly tall, blue-skinned savages, bizarre lights in the sky, unseen horrors lurking in underground laboratories. And the only person who can save these three marooned people is a lowly monitoring station employee half a world away in Arizona.
Where did you find your inspiration from when coming to write this book?
I had a whole series of nightmares about aliens and UFOs and blue-skinned savages, and when I stopped to think about it, I realised I could put them all together to form a story. So basically, my subconscious did all the hard work! Plus, I’ve always been interested in UFOs and alien abductions and have read a lot of books about them.
'Frenzy Island' has been dubbed a cross between Jurassic Park and Contact. Was this your intention to write something like this when you first set out?
It wasn’t my intention when I started working on the novel. It just kind of evolved that way. At the heart of the story is my trio of refugees who are trapped on an island crawling with things that want to eat them. In order to send a message out to the world and ask for help they have to reboot the power to the scientific facility they have taken refuge in. So, there’s an obvious kinship to Jurassic Park there. And as for the Contact comparison, I’m not giving anything away when I say that somewhere in the background an alien presence is lurking. It actually says that on the cover!
How did you come to the decision to write a sci-fi / horror novel?
I just followed my dreams. I am tormented by nightmares and anxiety dreams, which quite probably stem from my imposter syndrome. Once I realised that I could use them as the basis for stories, I stopped fearing them and now embrace them. I’ve taken something negative and turned it into a positive. My interest in sci-fi began aged six, when I saw the first Star Wars movie on its original release in 1977. That was my first ever trip to the cinema and it changed my life. My imagination was born that day. The novelisation of Star Wars (written by Alan Dean Foster but credited to George Lucas) became the first novel I read. After that I moved onto the Star Wars spin-off novels and then onto other unrelated sci-fi novels. That was where my journey as a reader began, so I guess it was inevitable that one day a sci-fi element would creep into my written work.
Self-confessed passionate about fiction, where did your love for creative writing come from?
My love for creative writing comes directly from my admiration of the craft. I’m a voracious reader and love losing myself in a dense, character-rich novel. At its best, a novel is a dissection of the human mind and soul. Even a so-called ‘airport novel’, which exists for nothing more than for the purpose of entertainment, can enrich and enlighten a reader if it’s cleverly written and well crafted. My favourite writers include Stephen King, Zadie Smith, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Cormac McCarthy, Joyce Carol Oates, Jack Kerouac and Shirley Jackson. I can pick up any book by any of these authors and know that I’ll take something away from it that will enrich me as a writer. My ultimate literary hero however – and it may surprise you to hear this – is Dylan Thomas. I’ve never encountered anyone who can use words to evoke such vivid mental images the way he could. The Dylan Thomas Omnibus never leaves my bedside.
Your day job is a very different type of writing. How did you manage to switch off the scriptwriting and turn on the creative?
I have actually just quit my job as a radio commercial scriptwriter. However, the two disciplines actually bleed into each other quite neatly. A mantra you hear repeated ad infinitum in the world of writing – and with good reason – is ‘make every word count’. As a commercial scriptwriter that was nine-tenths of my job. When conceiving a campaign for broadcast, I would come up with an idea and spend most of my time trying to work it down into 30- or 40-second scripts. I really did have to make every word count! That practise crosses over into my novel writing. I always try to keep my prose lean and direct.
Being your second novel, when it came to writing did you follow similar processes as you did in the first or did you find you'd changed?
Working on my second novel was a completely different experience to the first. Deep Level was a lot leaner, with a far smaller cast and a lot less going on. Frenzy Island unfolds over a far larger canvas. Deep Level is about four friends exploring a system of underground Victorian train tunnels, so it’s very claustrophobic, a lot more intense. Frenzy Island follows two interconnected stories that take place across different time zones: in Arizona and off the east African coast. There are far more supporting characters in Frenzy Island, numerous strands that had to be weaved together and – shock horror! – a romantic subplot. Also, it involved a great deal more research.
Is there anything you can tell us about any new books you are currently or planning to work on?
There certainly is. I’ve completed a gothic vampire novel. It’s set in London during the late 1800s and concerns a lady vampire who preys on men who prey on women. Also, in something of a departure, creatively speaking, I’m working on a trilogy of sci-fi/fantasy novels. I’ve completed the first two volumes and am knee deep into the third. I’ve been pretty busy!
One thing we always ask authors we speak to, if there's one piece of advice you can give to any budding authors what would it be?
Character character character! Whatever it is you want to convey in your novel or short story or whatever it is you’re writing, be it horror, romance, war, family saga, the reader is going to experience it through the characters, so they have to believe in them. They have to believe that the people who populate your story have lives beyond the page, which means that you as the writer have to invest in them. You have to get to know them as well as you know your own friends and family.
Thank you for your time today Richard.
You’re very welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Frenzy Island will be published on 25th October and can be purchased via publishers, Cranthorpe Millner and online retail stores, Waterstones, WHSmith, Foyles and Amazon.